You Can’t Go Home Again Characters

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1940

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Autobiographical

Time of work: 1929-1936

Locale: New York, England, and Germany

Characters DiscussedGeorge Webber

George You Can’t Go Home AgainWebber, a young writer in the first flush of success as a novelist. He learns that success brings enemies and that success is sometimes empty of meaning. His great aim in life, idealist that he is, is to write the truth, to portray people as they are, the great and small, the rich and poor. He faces disillusionment at every turn. He finds that his fellow men are greedy after the world’s goods; he finds, too, that they do not relish his truthful portrayal of them. George visits Germany, a place he loves, only to find that country filled with fear and persecution in the 1930’s, during the Nazi regime. He returns home to the United States to preach, in new novels, against selfishness and greed, hoping he can awaken the people of his own land to arise and defeat the forces threatening the freedom of humankind.

Foxhall Edwards

Foxhall Edwards, an editor for a publishing house who becomes George Webber’s friend and trusted adviser for a time. He is a genius at encouraging young writers to find themselves and acquire the confidence they need to produce literary art. He is also a skeptical person who believes that if humans are not destined for freedom, they must accept this fact. Edwards’ fatalism is at odds with George’s idealistic desire to better the lot of humankind by working to change conditions. These divergent attitudes cause a break in the friendship between the two men.

Lloyd McHarg

Lloyd McHarg, a successful American novelist who has won worldwide fame based on a number of excellent novels. He has found fame to be empty and searches for something; he knows not what. McHarg’s disillusionment is a bitter lesson for young, idealistic George Webber, for whom McHarg has been a symbol of greatness as a man of letters.

Esther Jack

Esther Jack, an older woman who has been George’s mistress in the past and becomes so again for a time after he has achieved success. He leaves her a second time when he decides that to find himself, he must leave Esther’s sophisticated set and get to know the common people of the world.

Else von Kohler

Else von Kohler, a beautiful, intelligent young German woman with whom George has a tender romance while revisiting Germany during the 1930’s.

BibliographyClements, Clyde C. “Symbolic Patterns in You Can’t Go Home Again.” Modern Fiction Studies 11, no. 3 (Autumn, 1965): 286-296. Defines and explicates these symbolic patterns: reminiscence (family and hometown), progression (business ethic, love, and art), and projection (fame in exile and the father).Holman, C. Hugh. The Loneliness at the Core: Studies in Thomas Wolfe. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1975. Analyzes the ambivalent attitudes of Wolfe, via his hero George Webber, toward the South and its place in modern America.Idol, John Lane, Jr. A Thomas Wolfe Companion. New York: Greenwood Press, 1987. Explains Wolfe’s avowed purpose in writing this novel and describes how Max Perkins, his editor, pieced it together and published it after Wolfe’s death. Identifies the novel’s main themes: discovery, growth, illusion and reality, hope, sorrow, dreams and their loss, ambition, freedom, honesty, and loneliness. Discusses its structure (rejection follows discovery), summarizes its episodes, and analyzes its characters, all identified in a glossary.McElderry, Bruce R. Thomas Wolfe. New York: Twayne, 1964. Explains how closely this novel follows The Web and the Rock, summarizes its continuing action and the maturing thoughts of the hero, and shows how significantly the work differs from Wolfe’s earlier, more autobiographical novels. Praises its satiric, demonic, and comic episodes.Snyder, William U. Thomas Wolfe: Ulysses and Narcissus. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1971. Demonstrates how events in Wolfe’s life, chronologically charted, caused his swings between depression and elation. Labels these events love denied, love unavailable, fame denied, love gratified, fame gratified. Parallels these events and elements in You Can’t Go Home Again.
Categories: Characters